While members of the Ector County Independent School District Board of Trustees agree that a tax increase is needed, they declined to take any action during a special meeting Friday in favor of taking more time to engage the community and explain the need for it.
The district’s tax rate is a total of $1.15 per $100 valuation, including $1.04 per $100 valuation for maintenance and operations and 11 cents going toward debt.
The proposed rate considered by the board was a total of $1.22957 per $100 valuation. That includes maintenance and operations rate of $1.12 per $100 valuation and 11 cents for debt. The district can ask voters to approve an increase of up to 13 cents.
Since they took no action, Mike Atkins, the attorney for the district, said the board can still adopt a budget June 26. They can adopt a tax rate that exceeds the rollback rate anytime between Aug. 6 and Aug. 20, Atkins said.
“The distinction is if they adopt it on either Aug. 6 or 7, then the election would be held on Oct. 8. But if they do it after Aug. 7 but before Aug. 20, then it would be Nov. 6. If they haven’t adopted it by Aug. 20 the option for this year of a tax ratification election is gone (and) the rate would remain.
The next opportunity to deal with it would come up in May 2019, Atkins said.
Board member Delma Abalos and educational activist Lorraine Perryman said they were relieved about Friday’s decision.
“We are not ready to have a (TRE) election in September. If we could have more time, I would push for more time. But otherwise I would want to have it in October. That gives us a little bit more time — not enough — but at least it gives us a chance to go back in, explain to our staff why we need it how, it can affect them. … It would probably be better if we did it next year. We definitely need to do it. I’m excited about today,” Abalos said.
Perryman said she thinks the board made the right decision to wait to vote on a tax rate.
“We have a lot of work to do and a very short time period to do it in on the timeline that was discussed by the board and the superintendent. But I’m relieved that they’ve given us some time … to do some due diligence so that we have better information to go to the community with, to build community trust,” Perryman said.
She would like a budget analysis to be done so those involved can feel like they’ve done everything they need to do and are comfortable asking fellow residents to stand up and support the TRE.
“I also firmly believe that the discussion of a bond election needs to be delayed, or removed, from the table until the budget is solidified and stabilized in Ector County Independent School District. Those are two issues that need to be completely separated,” Perryman said.
“I think if doing this in November and asking for a bond election in May is mutually assured destruction, yet again,” she added.
Perryman said voters need to understand the need to stabilize the district economically.
“My opinion is that we need to do a lot of analysis and then we need to ask for a 13-cent increase — go for the whole thing. That’s not even enough to do everything we need to do in Ector County, but it will stabilize so that the school board can set the priorities that they need to set. Then once we have that stable foundation, … we can talk as a community, building on that, but you can’t build on an unstable foundation,” Perryman said.